St. John Lutheran


Oskaloosa, Iowa

Sharing the Joy

of His Name


The Three Ecumenical or Universal Creeds

There are three creeds that are known as the ecumenical creeds, meaning that they have a universal acceptance. They are the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. The Lutheran Reformers of the 16th century accepted these creeds, and they are included in our Church's confessional writings as faithful expositions of Holy Scripture.

The Apostles' Creed

The Apostles' Creed is the oldest. Already by 150 A.D. this creed was in use at Christian centers all along the Mediterranean Sea, such as Jerusalem, Alexandria (North Africa), Rome, and even Spain. The Apostles' Creed developed in conjunction with Baptism. As the water was applied, the question would be asked: "Do you believe in God the Father? God the Son? etc." Very quickly the answer developed into what we now call the Apostles' Creed. It is often called the baptismal creed. In addition to its primary use at all baptisms, it is also very appropriate for use in daily devotions.

The Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed was written in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea. Hundreds of pastors and theologians were gathered at this council to respond to a false teaching that had arisen in the Church. This false teaching stated that Jesus was not true God. If you look carefully at the second section of the Nicene Creed, you can see all kinds of phrases that were included specifically to refute this false teaching. In the 325 version, the section on the Holy Spirit was not as developed. It was at the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. that it was lengthened to its present version, this time to emphasize that the Holy Spirit is also true God. For centuries the Nicene Creed has been the chief creed in the Sunday service.

The Athanasian Creed

For a long time it was thought that the Athanasian Creed was written by Athanasius, a very influential defender of the faith during the 4th-century debates over the divinity of Christ. However, it is clear that certain parts of it could not have been written by him. The best estimate is that it was written between 435-535 A.D., probably in the southern region of France. This creed is a marvelous confession of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Because of its length it is not used regularly, though many congregations will use it each year on Trinity Sunday.

Information listed above regarding the three creeds as obtained from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod web site.